@GridNews Targets Greedy Asian Parents ‘Bankrolling’ ‘Math Camps’

by Asra Q. Nomani

In June 2021, a reporter for Politico, Maggie Severns, reached out to interview me about the activism in northern Virginia around the governor’s race. Connecting with her over our common roots in West Virginia, I invited her to an event at an Indian restaurant hosted that night by the Coalition for TJ and the American Hindu Coalition, two local groups with Asian immigrants as members.

In a long interview, I told her that the story in northern Virginia belies stereotypes. Many of us are Asian, immigrant parents with long history as Democrats but the war on merit education — particularly in our community at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology — had turned so many parents off, they were hosting a meet-and-greet with Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin. Staff for the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, had asked for a sizable donation in exchange for a meeting, while Youngkin hadn’t asked for any quid pro quo.

I spent a lot of time trying to bring the stories of our parents to life. But almost a year later, it didn’t matter, as Maggie pens a piece for a new media outlet, Grid.News, filled with stereotypes and caricatures that the Fairfax County school board and activists within TJ Alumni Action Group have long been throwing at our families and students.

The PDF of the original biased article is here as Exhibit A in media bias. This is the link to the story but read the PDF so you don’t give the link hate clicks.

Like many corporations that have gone woke, Grid.News pledges all sorts of diversity and inclusion promises in its “Editorial Code of Ethics” — and proceeds to break them when it comes to Asians. Here is the PDF of its “Editorial Code of Ethics.”

We have gotten the message loud and clear that we don’t matter in America’s new “Oppression Matrix” and “Privilege Bingo Card.” But in this letter to the top editors, Mark Severns and Laura McGann, at Grid.News and Maggie, I want to send them a clear message: you can’t break your own “diversity” rules when it comes to us, marginalizing, erasing and making a caricature of us, painting us as “bankrolling” our children’s education to some nefarious ends.

Here is a PDF to the largely homogenous staff at Grid.News, while the reporter casts aspersions on Asian parents threatened by “diversity.”

My mother wonders why I am spending my time writing this. I have other things to do on a Saturday. But you know what, Mark, Laura and Maggie?

You cannot erase us anymore, as you did with your filtered photo of us, painting us as an ominous threat.

We are a part of America, and one day the Supreme Court of the United States of America will reveal clearly and empathetically that we are on the correct side of history as civil rights activists, not the caricatures with which you have tried to marginalize us.

We are all waiting to hear how you are going to fix your bigotry against Asian American immigrants. You can reach me at asra@asranomani.com.

From: Asra Nomani <asra@asranomani.com>
Date: Saturday, April 16, 2022 at 6:42 PM
To: <mseverns@grid.news>, Mark Bauman, Laura McGann
Subject: Your Grid piece is racist and filled with errors – you need to fix this

Mark, Laura and Maggie,

It is an understatement to say I am disappointed by your racist and bigoted article, “Parent vs. parent: A fight over admissions rockets from Zoom to Twitter to criminal court. When a Virginia magnet school tried to overhaul its admissions policy, a national debate became personal.”

Your article is nothing short of a racist caricature of Asian American immigrant parents and – most significantly – Asian American students.

  • Just look at the image you used to illustrate the article. You put a filter on a photo of our Coalition for TJ families, darkening us, making our faces indistinguishable, to make us out to be sinister and unseemly, the image of a test bubble sheet and pencil beside us, as if that is all we are about.
  • That photo included not only me and other immigrant parents, like Yuyan Zhou, who stood in Tiananmen Square in 1989 to fight for freedoms in her native China, but also my father, Zafar Nomani, 88, an immigrant from India, who survived the Bengal famine, arriving in the U.S. as a graduate student with dollars in his pocket to improve the lives of his family, his wife and two children, my brother and me, missing him deeply back in India.

The only thing you were missing was putting horns on our heads, fangs on our teeth and “slanty eyes” on our faces.

  • If you want to make this about race, and making a mockery of our racial group, we can see your operations through the lens of race, too. If you, as a liberal white woman, were to write such a bigoted caricature of any other minority – including Hispanic or Black parents and families – you’d be laughed out of diversity training. Did any Asian editors review this story?
  • This article breaks your “Editorial Code of Ethics,” which states: “We will make every effort to mitigate implicit bias. We will be conscious of subtly pejorative words, such as ‘refused,’ ‘despite,’ ‘admit’ and take care when using them.” You could add your “subtly pejorative words” like our parents “bankrolling” education for our kids. When did that become a crime? Who engages in “bankrolling”? Rich, corrupt oligarchs.
  • Look at your “executive team”: Mark Bauman @MarkBaumanDC, Laura McGann, Stephanie Abrutyn, Brad Bosserman and Perrin Doniger @PerrinD. I don’t see an Asian name among them. Or actually any minority. Do you have any minority representation in leadership, since you’re in such a high-and-mighty position of looking down at our parents?
  • Your masthead of “lead editors,” includes: Serena Golden @SerenaEGolden, Lauren Morello @Lmorello_DC, Tom Nagorski @TomNagoriski, Justin Rood @JustinRood and Kay Steiger @KaySteiger. Do you have any Asian representation among your “lead editors”? Go to your “contributing editors” and “deputy editors,” and you have Matthew Yglesias @MattyGlesias, Chris Geidner @ChrisGeidner, Matt Stile @Stiles and finally Nikhil Kumar @NKReports, former CNN bureau chief in New Delhi, as deputy global editor. Did he read and bless this caricature of immigrants from India, China and elsewhere? I doubt it.

For too many of you, our Asian immigrant families of color are fair game, aren’t we for your caricatures, bigotry, marginalization and racism? That is what leads to hate, Maggie.

  • But we aren’t just going to be the quiet, submissive Asians of your stereotypes.
  • You’ve got to fix this.
  • You have many options: immediately pull your story and write a clear editor’s note of apology and correction. Your article engages in microaggressions, implicit bias, explicit bias, racial stereotyping, marginalization, caricatures and every other aspect of treating racial minorities as the “other.”
  • Your “Editorial Code of Ethics” states under “Transparency & Credit”: “Grid seeks to avoid errors, but if we confirm that one has been made, it will be corrected quickly and transparently on our platforms. If the error appeared on other platforms, we would diligently attempt to correct it on those. Grid intends to produce original work, and it will not reproduce the work of others without customary credit. Plagiarism or intentionally providing or publishing false information or misleading the audience will not be tolerated.”
  • We want you to “diligently” correct this, and we will participate in cultural training with our families so you can understand how offensive and misleading you have been.

And realize this: You wrote about us without us.

  • You have this vacuous “Editorial Code of Ethics” where you claim “to be fair.” And “commit to building a diverse, inclusive newsroom” to “widen the lens.” Your lens is so narrow, all you can see is your own bias.
  • This is the only part of your “Editorial Code of Ethics” that is true: “We know that bias can seep into our work in invisible ways.”
  • Well, Maggie, this time, your “bias” hit us so hard over the head with a big club that said: You’re not welcome here, you sneaky Asians “bankrolling” education for your kids.

You wrote about our Asian families and students but you did not include the voice of a SINGLE Asian person in your story, other than quoting a random tweet or two from me. That is what marginalization looks like.

  • Before you say, but this was a story about a Black father feuding with a Hispanic father, realize that I know this: you used that feud as the narrative vehicle for a discussion of our Asian families without including us.
  • Imagine if you wrote about Black Lives Matter and didn’t interview a single Black leader. That’s what you have done in writing a racist hit piece about Asian families and students, as well as Coalition for TJ, without including the voices of any Asian in your article.
  • In good faith, I connected you with our families in June 2021, and I spoke to you for at least an hour that day, and we met briefly at a Coalition for TJ event, for us to never talk again, except to exchange a few text messages.

You never contacted me for this article, where you turn me into some kind of manipulative “former journalist” when I am very proud to be a current journalist, using the talents the heavens gave me to bring to life and humanize the hardworking Asian parents and kids I have had the honor of knowing.

  • My goal with my work and with this letter is so that they are not victims of the racist caricatures and stereotyping of biased journalists like you.
  • Your code of ethics states standards you violated: “We will try to contact as many relevant sources as we can identify and give them an opportunity to share their views. In particular, we will require reporters to make a good-faith effort to contact any subject who may be presented in a negative light and include their voice or position in the final product. We will apply the same standards whether the individual named is the subject of the piece or played a tangential role in the events covered.”
  • You cast us in a “negative light” and you did not include our “voice or position.” That’s making Asians invisible.
  • I told you in June 2021 that the stories of our immigrant families is a story that defies the script folks are trying to write in their heads, but you went ahead and wrote the preconceived script you had in your head of the sneaky, conniving Asian parents, “bankrolling thousands of dollars” for (horrors!) “test preparation,” like “summer math camps” (oh no!) and “private tutors” (what a crime!).
  • Then you added on the particularly juicy spin of us as “conservative” operatives when most of us are Democrats and classic liberals. But you got the chronology of events all wrong, and again you didn’t check the facts about me with me.

I have enumerated below 13 glaring mistakes and cultural and racist stereotypes in which you have engaged.

Please reply to this email, copying your editor and your staff official in charge of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Asra Nomani

13 errors in the racist, anti-Asian Grid piece by Maggie Severns.

  1. The Grid and you published: “Harry Jackson and his people decided they needed to take me out — not physically but through character assassination,” [Jorge] Torrico told Grid. “There’s no way I can fully clear my name.”
    • As you are aware, Maggie, as an issue of journalistic ethics and media law, you are responsible for publishing falsehoods even in quotes.
    • Where is your evidence that “Harry Jackson and his people” – which, through the thrust of your article is designed to be Coalition for TJ parents, including me – “decided” to “take…out” Jorge Torrico?
    • This is factually incorrectYou must retract and publish a correction.
  2. The Grid and you published: “Other parents bankroll thousands of dollars of test preparation, like summer math camps and private tutors, to help their kids on the school’s entrance exam.”
    • This breaks your ethic’s code: “We will make every effort to mitigate implicit bias. We will be conscious of subtly pejorative words, such as ‘refused,’ ‘despite,’ ‘admit’ and take care when using them.”
    • What is your evidence “parents,” in the plural, “bankroll thousands of dollars of test preparation”? Your article identifies TJ as an Asian-majority school, so your reference to “parents” is a racist and offensive statement about Asians, not only parents but “the kids” who enter TJ.
    • This is more of the same caricatures and marginalization that we have faced from the school board about immigrant, Asian families of color and activists like TJ Alumni Action Group.
    • Your carefully curated use of the word “bankroll” also assigns incendiary, even deceptive and corrupt aspersions on parents who may pay for “test preparation, like summer math and private tutors.”
    • Why are you feeding a stereotype about our Asian, immigrant families of color?
    • You have provided zero evidence of this assertion and it is culturally offensive and racist. Do you have evidence of parents who have said they “bankroll thousands of dollars.” I believe you do not, and you are just extrapolating to create a negative stereotype. You must retract and publish a correction.
  3. The Grid and you published: “For decades, parents who couldn’t afford tutoring or didn’t know how to navigate the school system rarely saw their children get in.”
    • Where is your evidence of this that parents who “couldn’t afford tutoring” “rarely” had children get into TJ?
    • This is factually inaccurate and culturally offensive as an aspersion again on those Asian parents who, by clear contrast, “know how to navigate the school system,” with the aspersion again as sneaky Asians.
    • Again, you feed despicable stereotypes not only about TJ parents but “the kids” that get into TJ. The mostly Asian students of color who come from immigrant families. You should be ashamed of yourself. You are simply carrying water for the activists.
    • You have provided zero evidence for this assertion, and it’s another racist aspersion on Asian parents and “kids.” You must retract and publish a correction.
  4. The Grid and you published: “In fact, Asian students comprised around 70 percent of Thomas Jefferson’s student body. Parents who cared deeply about the school quickly realized the changes could come at the expense of people like them.”
    • You again feed a racist stereotype of Asian parents as cutthroat and selfish. Your bigotry against us is truly repugnant.
    • You must retract and publish a correction.
  5. The Grid and you published: “It would go through multiple iterations of the new plan, but all of them got rid of the entrance exam and sought to admit more students from less-wealthy parts of the district — the same students who had been underrepresented at the school.”
    • By this point, your narrative is very clear, stereotyping TJ “kids” as privileged, wealthy students.
    • Where is your evidence of this? You provide now.
    • This is factually inaccurate and engages in racist, cultural stereotyping.  You must retract and publish a correction.
  6. The Grid and you published: “They’ve created a situation where if you have money and resources, you benefit, and if you don’t, mostly you won’t,” said Torrico, who is a parent to three kids in Fairfax County and graduated from Thomas Jefferson himself in 1998.
    • This is factually inaccurate. The TJ Alumni Action Group activists called immigrant parents “resource hoarders.” You are feeding this stereotype.
    • This is factually inaccurate, culturally offensive and racist. You must retract and publish a correction.
  7. The Grid and you published: “One of the parents in the chat said something to the effect of, if I can’t handle [Thomas Jefferson], it’s a ‘me’ problem and I should drop out and give my seat to someone who is capable of dealing,” Elsyad recalled. “Comments like that for the entirety of the night.”
    • Where is the proof of this chat, paraphrased as “something to the effect of”? Do you have the record and the original quote? Again, you are responsible for inaccuracy in even quotes. And the evidence that it happened for the “entirety of the night”?
    • This is factually incorrect. Again, you are feeding racist stereotypes about Asian immigrant parents. You must retract and publish a correction.
  8. The Grid and you published: “As a former journalist, Nomani was adept at tweeting, pitching stories to news outlets and speaking to the press.”
    • I am not a “former journalist.” I am currently a journalist.
    • This is factually incorrect. You must retract and publish a correction.
  9. The Grid and you published: “Soon after she began opposing the school board, Nomani started invoking hot-button issues like critical race theory, warning that the school was succumbing to leftist fads.”
    • Your narrative chronology is completely wrong and designed to write the script in your head, not reality.
    • I “began” “opposing the school board” in June 2020, with my first school board speech, not “soon after” the “debate escalated” in fall 2020.
    • The tweet you cite in your evidence was posted Sept. 15, 2020, a complete three months after my first school board speech.
    • This is factually inaccurate. You must retract and publish a correction.
  10. The Grid and you published: “Nomani started writing about Thomas Jefferson on a Substack newsletter and in conservative outlets like Quillette.”
    • This is factually inaccurate on several counts.
    • I published my first Substack article on Aug. 11, 2020, BEFORE the “debate escalated.”
    • I published my only Quillette article on Sept. 23, 2020, BEFORE the “debate escalated” not “soon after.”
    • Where has Quillette described itself as “conservative”?
    • This is factually incorrect. You must retract and publish a correction.
  11. The Grid and you published: “Soon, other members of the Coalition for TJ started landing in the conservative spotlight, too: Jackson appeared on Fox News and was featured in the Wall Street Journal, which ran an op-ed headlined, “Virginia Dad Takes On the School Board.”
    • This again is factually inaccurate. Your chronology is completely wrong in order to suit the narrative you imagined. The WSJ column you cite was published on Oct. 11, 2021, a full year after the controversy at TJ began, not “soon” after as you imply to again feed this narrative that we’re just right-wing operatives.
    • This is factually inaccurate and feeds a negative caricature of our Asian families as such submissive pawns we “started landing in the conservative spotlight.” You must retract and publish a correction.
  12. The Grid and you published: “In the spring of 2021, Jackson ran for president of the school’s PTA…”
    • Harry Jackson ran for the position of president-elect. The TJ Executive Committee voted for him to be president after the president Bonnie Qin resigned.
    • This is factually incorrect. You must retract and publish a correction.
  13. The Grid and you published: A few months before he was elected president, a PTA call set Jackson on a collision course with Torrico.
    • Again, Harry Jackson was not elected president. He was elected president-elect.
    • This is factually incorrect. You must retract and publish a correction.

#StopAsianHate, Maggie and the Grid.